Understanding California Domestic Violence Laws (PC 273.5)
Under California Penal Code 273.5 PC, it is illegal to inflict corporal injury on a former spouse, co-parent, cohabitant, or dating partner. Corporal injury is any physical injury— no matter how minor or severe. The crime is what’s known as a wobbler in California, which means it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the prosecutor’s discretion.
The law reads that under California Penal Code Section 273.5
“Any person who willfully causes corporal injury that results in a traumatic condition to a victim described in subdivision (b) is guilty of a felony. If convicted, the defendant will be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, or in a county jail for no more than one year, or by a fine of up to $6,000, or both.”
California Penalties for Corporal Injury to a Spouse
As we mentioned, corporal injury is a wobbler offense, so it can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, meaning the penalties vary on a case-by-case basis depending on the facts of each case and the defendant’s criminal history. If you are convicted of corporal injury in California, you are subject to:
- Being sentenced to up to a year in the county jail and/or a fine of up to $6,000 (misdemeanor conviction)
- Being sentenced to two, three, or four years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $6,000 (felony conviction)
- Being sentenced to up to a year in the county jail or two, four, or five years in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000 (conviction within seven years of other battery/assault convictions)
But, the consequences of a corporal injury conviction don’t end there. Domestic violence convictions can carry the following additional consequences:
- The loss of your right to own a firearm for life
- Loss of a professional license (for example, license to practice law or medicine)
- Domestic violence restraining orders against the defendant
- Deportation with no right to re-enter the country after leaving, no possibility of becoming a U.S. citizen, and no right to apply for a green card or adjustment of status
- A strike under California’s Three Strike Law
Reducing/Lessening PC 273.5 Charges
If you have recently been accused, charged, or convicted with PC 273.5 charges, you must contact an experienced and skilled defense attorney. An attorney will work to lessen your charges and, therefore, the consequences and impacts on your life. Legal defenses to PC 273.5 Charges often take the position that:
You Acted in Self-Defense or You Were Defending Someone Else
To prove self-defense in a corporal injury case, your defense attorney will need to prove that:
- You reasonably believed that you or someone else was in immediate danger of bodily harm
- You reasonably believed the immediate use of force was necessary to defend yourself and/or other(s) against danger
- You used no more force than what was reasonably required to defend against the danger
Injury to the Accuser Was an Accident
California Penal Code 273.5 states that it is only considered corporal injury when the defendant willfully injures the victim. This means that any injury that is accidental— even if it happens during a heated argument, is not enough to warrant a corporal injury charge. If this is the case, a skilled attorney should be able to get your charge reduced to a less serious offense such as a domestic battery.
The Defendant was Falsely Accused
Because law enforcement in California takes domestic violence allegations very seriously, people are often wrongly accused, arrested, and charged based upon false allegations. These allegations can stem from jealousy, anger, or the accuser desiring revenge.
A skilled California domestic violence attorney will help fight the baseless allegations by:
- Subpoenaing the accuser’s text messages, social networking accounts, and emails
- Interviewing the accuser and their family, friends, co-workers, and online acquaintances
- Conducing thorough background investigations on the accuser and all alleged witnesses
No matter what defenses are at play, criminal defense lawyers are well-versed in achieving favorable outcomes for their clients without a trial.
Differences Between Corporal Injury and Domestic Battery
Penal Code 243(e)(1), domestic battery is a similar but less serious charge than Corporal Injury. PC 243(e)(1) prohibits the ‘offensive or harmful’ touching of an intimate partner.
Unlike corporal injury, domestic battery doesn’t require the victim to have sustained any injuries. Domestic battery is always a misdemeanor charge compared to corporal injury, which can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor.
Potential punishment for domestic battery charges include:
- Up to one year in county jail
- A fine of up to $2,000
- Completion of a batterer’s treatment program
Due to its milder consequences, domestic battery is often a desirable charge reduction and/or plea bargain for people facing corporal injury charges.
What is the Definition of an “Intimate Partner?”
The definition of an intimate partner under California Penal Code 273.5 is quite broad and includes a current or former:
- Parent of the defendant’s child
- Registered domestic partner
- Live-in partner
- Person with whom the defendant has or has had a serious relationship
Factors that can determine whether a relationship is considered “live-in” include:
- Sexual relations took place while sharing the same residence
- Sharing an income or expenses
- Joint use or ownership of property
- The length of the relationship
It’s important to note that under California domestic violence laws, it is possible for defendants to live with more than one person simultaneously.
Contact a California Domestic Violence Attorney Today!
Domestic violence charges in California are serious and have the potential to impact your life. If you have been accused of domestic violence, contact us today. We have a skilled Los Angeles criminal defense attorney with 20+ years of experience securing favorable outcomes for our clients that allow them to continue living their lives.
Need a Criminal Defense Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529
Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Criminal Defense Attorney who has over 20 years of practice defending a variety of criminal cases.